MSU sweeps Rutgers in Saturday doubleheader to improve to 17-3 on the season
The MSU baseball team opened up Big Ten play on Saturday afternoon against Rutgers, with a doubleheader after the game on Friday was postponed and moved to Saturday due to inclement field conditions. The Spartans improved to 17-3 on the season after sweeping against Rutgers by a final score of 5-2 in game one and 5-4 in game two.
Rutgers drew first blood in the contest, scoring two runs in the third inning. Freshman second baseman Carmen Sclafani would get things started for Rutgers after drawing a walk from a full count. After that, senior catcher R.J. Devish followed up with a single to left field, putting the first two runners of the inning on base. Both of these runners would score thanks to a sacrifice flyout from senior first baseman Chris Suseck and an RBI single from freshman center fielder Jawuan Harris. Spartan starter Cam Vieux stopped the bleeding after striking out DH Nick Matera to end the inning.
MSU would retaliate one inning later to even the score 2-2. With two outs, junior left fielder Taylor Grace singled to past the third basemen into left field to give the Spartans their second hit of the afternoon. One batter later, junior DH Jordan Zimmerman tied the game with his second home run of the season.
The Spartans would take their first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, to make it a 3-2 game. Grace singled up the middle to lead off the inning and would advance to second on a wild pitch. A ground out from senior right fielder Kris Simonton would put Grace at third with two outs. Then senior first baseman Justin Hovis hit a sharp single into right-center, giving MSU their first edge over the Scarlet Knights.
MSU would add another in the bottom of the seventh when Grace hit an RBI single to right-center field to score Ando, making the score 4-2 in MSU’s favor. The Spartans would score their fifth and final run in the eighth after Hovis executed a suicide-squeeze bunt to score sophomore Kory Young, who entered the game as a pinch runner for Zimmerman.
MSU’s starter, lefty junior Cam Vieaux left the contest after giving up two runs on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work. Sophomore reliever Dakota Mekkes came out of the bullpen and finished the game for MSU. In 2.1 innings Mekkes struck out five, including three in the ninth to help the Spartans claim game one of the doubleheader.
Offensively, Grace and Zimmerman were involved in all of MSU's scoring plays. Zimmerman finished 1-for-3, one run and two RBI's while Grace went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and one run batted in.
Rutgers again would be the team to score first in game two, this time coming in the first inning. Junior DH Mike Carter reached via the fielder’s choice and advanced to third on a Suseck base hit. Carter would cross the plate and take the 1-0 lead on a sac fly from junior right fielder Tom Marcinczyk.
In the bottom half of the first, MSU would come back and take a 2-1 lead. A leadoff double from freshman third baseman Marty Bechina and an infield base hit from junior second baseman Dan Durkin tied the game at one run each. Then three consecutive walks from Rutgers’ starting pitcher Kyle Driscoll made it a 2-1 ballgame. The Spartans would leave the bases loaded to end both the first and second innings.
The Scarlet Knights would retake the lead in the third inning, mostly due to defensive errors on MSU. Devish reached on an infield base hit and advanced to third on a throwing error from MSU starter Ethan Landon on a pickoff attempt. Carter would single up the middle to tie the game, and two walks and another error by Landon would give Rutgers a 3-2 lead.
MSU would score two runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 4-3 lead over Rutgers. Zimmerman and Hovis would cross the plate to establish the one run advantage, and knocked out Driscoll after 4.2 innings of work.
The Spartans would tack on one more in the seventh inning and would end up needing the extra insurance. In the top of the eighth inning, Harris smacked a home run over the Spartans’ scoreboard off of closer Joe Mockbee to make it a 5-4 ballgame. On a side note, Harris is also listed as a wide receiver on the Rutgers football roster.
In the ninth, Mockbee struck out the side to finish the game with 5 K's in 2.1 innings of work and complete the doubleheader sweep.
Up next for MSU
The Spartans and the Scarlet Knights will square off for the third and final game of the weekend series on Sunday, with first pitch set for 1:05 p.m. Follow @thesnews_sports on Twitter for live updates.